In company with Geary and young Haight he had come to frequent a certain one of the fast cafes of the city. Here he met and became acquainted with a girl called Flossie. It was the opportunity for which he was waiting, and he seized it at once.
This time there was no recoil of conscience, no shame, no remorse; he even felt a better estimation of himself, that self-respect that comes with wider experiences and with larger views of life. He told himself that all men should at one time see certain phases of the world; it rounded out one’s life. After all, one had to be a man of the world. Those men only were perverted who allowed themselves to be corrupted by such vice.
Thus it was that Vandover, by degrees, drifted into the life of a certain class of the young men of the city. Vice had no hold on him. The brute had grown larger in him, but he knew that he had the creature in hand. He was its master, and only on rare occasions did he permit himself to gratify its demands, feeding its abominable hunger from that part of him which he knew to be the purest, the cleanest, and the best.
Three years passed in this fashion.
Vandover had decided at lunch that day that he would not go back to work at his studio in the afternoon, but would stay at home instead and read a very interesting story about two men who had bought a wrecked opium ship for fifty thousand dollars, and had afterward discovered that she contained only a few tins of the drug. He was curious to see how it turned out; the studio was a long way downtown, the day was a little cold, and he felt that he would enjoy a little relaxation. Anyhow, he meant to stay at home and put in the whole afternoon on a good novel.
But even when he had made up his mind to do this he did not immediately get out his book and settle down to it. After lunch he loitered about the house while his meal digested, feeling very comfortable and contented. He strummed his banjo a little and played over upon the piano the three pieces he had picked up: two were polkas, and the third, the air of a topical song; he always played the three together and in the same sequence. Then he strolled up to his room, and brushed his hair for a while, trying to make it lie very flat and smooth. After this he went out to look at Mr. Corkle, the terrier, and let him run a bit in the garden; then he felt as though he must have a smoke, and so went back to his room and filled his pipe. When it was going well, he took down his book and threw himself into a deep leather chair, only to jump up again to put on his smoking-jacket. All at once he became convinced that he must have something to eat while he read, and so went to the kitchen and got himself some apples and a huge slice of fresh bread. Ever since Vandover was a little boy he had loved fresh bread and apples. Through the windows of the dining-room he saw Mr. Corkle digging up great holes in the geranium beds. He went out and abused him and finally let him come back into the house and took him upstairs with him.